If you are unsure of the specifics regarding disability insurance (especially long-term or short-term disability), then you’re not alone. There are different types of coverage available from different sources, which can be confusing. There are also different requirements for each kind of coverage, which can be even more confusing.
Understanding what you qualify for — and how to apply for it — can be time-consuming and difficult to navigate. Working with someone who understands the system and how the rules apply to people in different circumstances can not only make the process easier, but it can also help you get the most benefits possible.
Even if you work with a professional, it’s important to understand the differences between long-term and short-term disability insurance benefits. It also helps to know how those employer-provided benefits differ from the federal government’s Social Security disability benefits.
Understanding the Difference Between Short-Term Disability and Long-Term Disability Benefits
Short-term disability and long-term disability differ in two distinct and important ways:
- How long you can expect to receive benefits
- Where these benefits come from
Short-term disability insurance is designed to replace part of your income after a serious illness or injury. For example: If you are undergoing cancer treatment and cannot work, you might qualify for short-term disability. The same is true if you have a car accident injury and need time off to recover.
Short-term disability is meant to be a bridge between otherwise-healthy working periods. This is why they call it short-term: It’s only meant to last until you are back in the workforce. The amount of coverage you have determines how much of your salary your employer’s short-term disability insurance policy covers.
Long-term disability is different. Long-term disability can replace part of your income during prolonged periods of time when you cannot work due to illness. While these policies vary, long-term disability insurance may cover you for as long as necessary. It can stay in effect until you return to your current job. Alternatively, you may stay on long-term disability until you find work you can do despite any physical or mental limitations.
Where You Can Get Short-Term or Long-Term Disability Insurance
In the vast majority of cases, you can only get long-term and short-term disability insurance coverage from your current employer. However, if you live in one of these states, you may also have coverage under a state-offered plan:
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
Each of these five states has specific requirements that qualify a resident for coverage.
Don’t live in one of these five states? You can secure long-term or short-term disability insurance from an employer that includes the coverage in its benefits package. You can also purchase individual insurance plans, meaning your coverage isn’t tied to your current employer. But those private plans can be pricey, making them out of reach for many people.
What Is Social Security Disability Insurance?
Social Security disability insurance is different than the long-term and short-term disability insurance offered by employers and some states. It is available only to those who meet the Social Security Administration’s requirements. To qualify for benefits, you must have worked many years in jobs where you paid Social Security payroll taxes. You must also have a condition that meets the SSA’s definition of disability.
What Counts as a Disability for the SSA’s Benefits Program?
The SSA asks five questions to determine if a person has a disability that qualifies for SSD benefits:
Question 1: Are you working? If the answer is yes and you make more than $1,310 per month, then you do not qualify.
Question 2: Is your condition severe? If your health limits your ability to perform work-related activities for at least 12 months, then the answer is yes. Work-related activities include things like lifting, sitting, standing, and remembering instructions.
Question 3: Is your condition found in the SSA’s list of disabling conditions? The SSA maintains a list of disabling conditions that make it easier to determine if you qualify for benefits. Short-term disability conditions, such as pregnancy, joint replacement surgery, or serious (but temporary) injuries do not appear anywhere in the SSA’s list. It also allows for Compassionate Allowances (CAL) and Quick Disability Determinations, which can speed up your SSD claim review.
An example of a CAL determination might be if a person is diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. In that case, the SSA decides that person is disabled as soon as he or she receives a diagnosis. This means benefits can start in less than one month rather than waiting for more severe symptoms.
A QDD, however, uses a computer-aided process to quickly determine common circumstances that likely qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
Question 4: Can you do the work you did previously? If the answer is yes, you do not qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
Question 5: Can you do another type of work? If you can do other work despite your current physical or mental limitations, the SSA does not consider you disabled.
Learn some other reasons why your SSD case may not qualify for benefits or legal assistance.
Does Social Security Pay Short-Term Disability Benefits?
Social Security does not pay short-term disability benefits. It also does not pay temporary benefits to anyone for any reason. The only way to qualify for Social Security disability is to meet all the SSA’s medical and technical requirements. You must be unable to work for at least 12 months, specifically due to health reasons. You must also be unable to find any other work you could do with your current mental and/or physical limitations. After 24 months on SSD benefits, you’ll automatically qualify for Medicare coverage, too.
Why Legal Assistance Matters for SSD Benefits
Working with a Social Security disability lawyer can help you navigate the SSA’s requirements. What’s more, having an attorney file your SSD claim nearly triples your chances for benefit approval! Our attorneys work on a contingency basis, so you pay $0 for legal assistance if you don’t win benefits. And if you win, then you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee. To connect with the closest available Social Security disability attorney to review your case, start your free SSD evaluation today.
Ready to see if you may qualify? Complete your free online SSD benefits evaluation now!
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Lisa Allen is a writer and editor who lives in suburban Kansas City. She holds MFAs in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry, both from the Solstice Low-Residency Program in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College. Prior to becoming a writer, Lisa worked as a paralegal, where she specialized in real estate in and around Chicago.